Facebook has been in the news a lot lately, mostly for strategically silencing many conservative voices in America. Now, a former executive of Facebook has come out and said that our behaviors are being programmed by social media.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth at Facebook, told Stanford Graduate School of Business, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
“I feel tremendous guilt,” Palihapitiya added. “I think we all knew in the back of our minds — even though we feigned this whole line of, like, there probably aren’t any bad unintended consequences. I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of, we kind of knew something bad could happen. But I think the way we defined it was not like this.”
“So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion,” he continued. “It is eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.”
Palihapitiya said he no longer uses it as he doesn’t want to be programmed and does not allow his kids to use it either.
“Bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything you want. It’s a bad, bad state of affairs. And we compound the problem. We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up. And we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short term and that leaves you even more, and admit it, vacant and empty before you did it. Because it forces you into this vicious cycle about what’s the next thing I need to do, because I need it back. And think about that compounded by two billion people.”
“Everybody else has to soul-search a little bit more about what you’re willing to do,” he said. “Because your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed. It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you’re willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.”
He is not the only one to speak out on the issue.
Sean Parker was a co-founder of Napster and also the first president of Facebook. In an interview in 2017, he said:
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because of the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…”
”God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
He also said that though he and Zuckerberg and others knew that the platform exploited human vulnerabilities, they went ahead with it anyway.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
While I do believe that there is a multitude in our society who are being programmed by social media and will fight at the drop of a hat if they are misunderstood or don’t know how to control themselves, I also realize there are quite a bit of us who simply use it to get a message out and nothing more.
Social media does not control me. I can live without it. In fact, I would prefer to live without it, but it’s not practical in my line of work.
Still, this should be an eyeopener to many if you notice behavioral changes in friends, co-workers or your children who use social media.
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